Canada - Faith, when faced with what is impossible
On the 11th of March 2015 the Little Sisters of the Assumption and the laity of the province of Canada met for a day of reflection. The aim of this meeting was to highlight the 150 years of history since the foundation of the Little Sisters of the Assumption’s Congregation and the bond that unites laypeople to the mission that has become a joint journey along a path of humanity and of faith.
Of course, all were there to recall what has brought us to the present day, but we wished even more to look at our prospects for the future. We turned towards tomorrow with Etienne and Antoinette; our meeting was also meant to recall the past, the heritage bequeathed to those who wish to carrying out the mission, but we also felt the need to look at the depth of their commitments, the strength that inspired them, the faith in which their actions were rooted and which made them stand fast in the face of the impossible aspects of a mission that, from the beginning, seemed unworkable. But, there it is, nothing resists the call of Love, the desire of God.
Our talks, our discussions and our efforts in various workshops concerning a fraternity that is possible for today dealt with different themes: "Where is your brother? Where is your sister?" (cf. Gn 4:9); "Build a fraternity within our Maison Orléans", the fraternity that is more necessary than ever in a world where the various realities are constantly changing, a fraternity that opens out to people of different backgrounds: social, cultural or spiritual and thus grasps the new poverty that has so many different forms giving rise to new needs. For the founders, the fraternity was a key to living together in the continuity of "being there".
We looked again at the importance given by Étienne and Antoinette to a family-fraternity that would bring meaning to the daily life of those who had lost all hope, "to become bearers of meaning" so as to refresh those who are thirsting to be loved for what they are. With humility, dare to think that our mission can and must adapt by letting itself be transformed by the gentle breeze of the Spirit so as to enter into the ongoing unfolding of a better world that is going on now with us, with them, by all of us.
We wished to face up to questions that are part of our daily life: fraternity, family, work society. Each small group was challenged by the same theme: "The fraternity for today". In the different situations that were presented each one, starting from daily life, was to question his/her heart and actions. How can I make what is around me more human? We have exposed ourselves to questions that place us in front of the impossible. Is fraternity out of our reach? Would it be too powerful, or too delicate to handle? Would the capital required to invest in it be too much for our poverty? And there are still many other questions.
When we shared our reflections, we found that our replies had the same flavour – that of welcoming the other even beyond our limitations through a love that is inspired by Jesus, even if that might appear to some to be a dream. Faced with the impossibility of that love, Christ has showed us what is possible. In the spirit of Etienne and Antoinette it not an illusion to believe in the possibility of fraternity. Fraternity lived out in our daily life, but also at the scale of our little planet, is the only means for present-day humanity to emerge from the habits of indifference and of hatred.
It can give back to our societies the opportunity to recover the taste for a fraternity/family that inspires a way of living together despite our difficulties and to become a ferment in relations giving the right to the light that would enable each one to "live" on the same earth/land open to the good of all.
In the reality of our daily life we meet men and women of all backgrounds with different forms of poverty, all equally alienating. They are men and women who have neither the actions nor the words to transform situations that it is almost impossible to change and, in the face of this, that we also are so helpless and empty-handed. We have become aware that, with time, love, prayer, "being-there" with the other in the fraternity is not just giving or sharing, it is above all offering what I am.
Fraternity begins its work in the heart of each human being, there where Etienne, following Christ, asks us to be, in the depths of ourselves so as to offer ourselves to the other, the one who is before me and who stretches out his hand to me because he is afraid to advance along his human path.
"Love one another." "Walk with one another." To journey in our lives with one another, with our differences. That is the way fraternity advances in the greyness of our cities, in the poverty of our neighbourhoods, in the suffering of prisoners, in the helplessness of the homeless, in the shadows of our feelings. Fraternity bears light within itself and precedes our hopes. It is not just a question of doing one’s best, it is a call "to bearers of fraternity" among our brothers and our sisters, our human family.
The fraternity inspired by Jesus and our founders comes to arouse the love and the respect of which each of us is capable faced with the stranger, that other person who, at first, seemed to us to be nothing may, thanks to fraternity appear as a brother, as a sister by inspiring us in continuing together along our different paths with full dignity.
As believers, we are still faced with impossible situations similar to those experienced by Etienne and Antoinette. What enabled them to overcome the obstacles was, without any doubt, the faith, that little seed placed in each one’s heart which can move mountains in daily patience, step by step; that faith which supports in hope our commitment along the path of our exile where God is journeying with us.
The celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation enabled us to project ourselves towards a future to be received, being confident that we are not alone, that the Spirit is there among us in a very human fraternity, willed by God. This mission will remain as beautiful as it was on the first morning when Etienne was inspired by it. A hundred and fifty years ago our history began and it is continuing today by the grace of God.
That is the summary of our reflection on the 11th of March 2015. The call to preserve in ourselves the fire of fraternity is still mobilising us. Where will it lead us? It is something we want with a faith that is confident in the face of what seems impossible, as Etienne and Antoinette had sought it in their lives. At the end of that day, inspired by the life and the intuitions of our founders, we named the paths that go beyond what is impossible and which are like so many ways enabling us to live a fraternity that is more deeply human and which is desired by God. The union of the Little Sisters of the Assumption and the Laity constitutes an extraordinary revitalisation in the present social context – it is going to make possible the continuity and the solidification of the mission at Maison Orléans. Faith is the first condition for the love that rises in the face of what seems to be impossible.
"It is rest for the spirit, a joy, a consolation for the heart. It gives spiritual fruitfulness to our actions." Etienne Pernet, January 1893
Roger Malenfant, Maison Orléans
Festivities committee for the 150th anniversary of the Little Sisters and laity in Canada